A Wonderful Surprise
A knock sounded on the door and I hastily put my bookmark in my book and got up to answer. Kendrew stood outside, an embarrassed smile on his face.
“I did not interrupt anything, did I?”
I shook my head. “Not at all. Is something wrong?”
He shifted his foot, staring at it a moment before looking back at me. “I have a surprise for you. Would you like to follow?”
“Surprise?” I asked, arching a brow.
“It was Will’s idea, really. Well, to begin with. But then I actually set everything up and added my own twist to what he suggested and—” He cut himself off, clearing his throat. “I will stop talking now. After you.” He moved to the side and gestured for me to go down the hallway.
“Where are we going?”
He beamed and a sparkle ignited in his eyes. “You will see.”
My curiosity ignited, I walked beside him down the hall. I pressed him with questions but he just remained silent and shook his head, a smile growing on his face. We took a turn and a few steps down the hallway my bare foot kicked something small and soft. I glanced down and noticed flower petals sprinkled over the carpet. I glanced at Kendrew questioningly but he didn’t meet my gaze.
Kendrew stopped in front of a set of double doors, placing one hand on each handle. He twisted them and then jumped as if he had been shocked. “Oh!” He turned back to me, looking sheepish but excited. “Close your eyes.”
Curiosity burned within me, agitating me, but I closed my eyes. I was tempted to keep them open just enough to see a tiny bit but decided to let him have his moment. I heard the doors swing open and Kendrew’s hands closed around mine as he pulled me slowly into the room. We took a few steps into the room. He released my hands.
“Can I open my eyes now?”
“No.” The sound of a match being struck filled the room, followed by fire igniting. It was silent a moment and I thought he had left me.
I grumbled but kept them closed. It seemed to take forever before I felt him approach me again. He mumbled something but I didn’t catch it. When I asked him to repeat it he remained silent. After years of living with my mother, I panicked. Had he put some sort of spell on me? Will had said he never used magic or anything of the kind, but did Kendrew?
“Ichelle, relax. I want it to be perfect. I said it would just be another minute or so.” His voice sounded far off. I couldn’t place where it came from.
“Forgive me,” I replied quietly. “You’ll understand my panic with a past like mine.”
“I figured. It is why I clarified.” A moment later, his hand brushed my arm. When he spoke again, the earlier excitement returned. “Okay. You can open your eyes now.”
I did as I was told—
And nearly stopped breathing at the sight in front of me. The petals on the floor had been from roses. I realized now because there were several vases of whole blooms placed around the room. The colors varied from a dark red to white to yellow. Candlelight lit the room in a warm orange glow. A candelabra sat on a table adorned with dinnerware and covered with a silk cloth. Vines were knitted into the fabric at the edges.
Kendrew moved to the table and pulled out a chair. “For the lady.” He bowed and indicated I should sit. I did and he walked around to the other side, taking his seat.
I stared at him, dumbfounded. I was sure my mouth was hanging open. “You planned all this?” When he nodded, the only response I could think of was “Why?”
Thankfully, he didn’t appear offended in the least. He shrugged simply and said, “I figured you needed a change of routine. Things get boring when you end up just going through the motions.” A hint in his voice suggested a change in routine hadn’t been the only thing he was thinking of when he planned this. I wondered what it was. Had he just been that bored?
“What about Will?” There were only two chairs, two places set.
“He suggested staying in his room tonight. Are you hungry?” He stood up and walked over to a closet type door. Pulling it open, he withdrew a wheeled table with silver plates on it. Each of them was covered and there were at least seven total. “What would you like first: hoer d’oeuvres, the main course, or dessert?”
I laughed. “Let’s start with hoer d’oeuvres.”
He grinned and whispered, “We do not have any rules to follow. If you want dessert first, it is perfectly fine.”
“Very well. What’s for dessert?”
He laughed and a warm tingle skittered over my body. I loved his laugh, I decided. “Chocolate cake, sweet apple pie, or some tart Will made.”
“Will made this?”
“Some of it. He helped mostly. I am a fairly good chef so I thought I would cook this meal for us and give him a break.”
“That was nice of you.”
“I do it rather often. It helps pass the time when the day has been uneventful.”
I suddenly wondered how many days had passed in this castle he classified as ‘uneventful’ but then I realized there were probably too many to count. How had he survived and still turned out normal? If I had been in his place, I would have been driven insane by now. The halls were entirely too quiet and the only other person was Will. I glanced at Kendrew as he scooped a piece of pie onto a plate and set it in front of me. The candles cast dark shadows on his hard edges, making him look sharper, more menacing, but I knew it was nearly impossible for him to be anything but respectful. Had he always been like that or had his deformities changed him?
“Is something the matter?”
His question snapped me out of my reverie and I realized I had been staring at him the whole time. He stood awkwardly clutching the pie scoop, unsure if he should sit or not.
I smiled. “Sorry. It’s nothing. I was just waiting for you to have your pie.” I picked up one of my forks—there were four—and stabbed it into the pie, flicking my eyes up to glance at him. “Shall we?”
He sat, still looking uncomfortable, and I mentally kicked myself. The boy had enough to worry about without me spacing out and staring at him. He was probably thinking I was staring at him in disgust, horrified at having to eat with him alone. I hoped he wasn’t because that was not the case at all. In fact, in all the months I had spent here, his deformities had slowly begun melting away to me, showing just Kendrew. Sure, when he touched me, I would feel the scars on his hands, but even with his patchy hair and burned face, he was still normal to me. Maybe it was because I knew him. It wasn’t his fault he looked like he did.
“This is really good pie,” I said after a while, hoping I hadn’t shut him down again. “Did you make it?”
He shook his head. “Will did. I made the cake.” His voice was clipped and I felt a pang in my chest. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
“Then we should have the cake next. I’m sure it’ll be just as good as this, if not better.”
Kendrew’s blue eyes flashed up to meet my gray ones. He searched my gaze for a moment longer than sociably acceptable but I didn’t flinch. I kept my earnest gaze, hoping he would see the apology there. He looked down at his pie without a word, taking a giant bite. I sighed quietly. It seemed fit I would be the one to make the dinner awkward within the first few minutes. Why had I had to zone out at that particular moment?
When we were finished with the pie, he served me a slice of cake. It was delicious. The chocolate was just sweet enough and the frosting was decadent but not too thick. I took the first bite but I couldn’t bring myself to chew it. Instead, I let it melt in my mouth, savoring the wonderful flavor. Kendrew hardly touched his piece but waited patiently as I slowly ate mine.
“That is seriously fantastic!” I exclaimed.
He nodded, said, “Thank you,” and put turkey, potatoes, green beans, and a light brown gravy on a large plate and set it in front of me. He barely put any food on his.
“Aren’t you hungry?”
I set my fork down—the third one—with a clink. “Kendrew Wray, you will eat more than that slab of turkey.”
He glanced up, startled.
“You can’t not eat anything. You need just as much food as I do, if not more.” Then, because I knew the reason he was doing this, I added, “And I wasn’t staring at you because you’re ugly. You’re not. I zoned out and I apologize for you taking it the wrong way. I would never look at you with disgust, Kendrew. Never.”
He blinked. “No, Ichelle, it is I who should apologize to you. I am sorry I mistook your look. It is difficult having someone else in the castle, the constant worry of if one day you will grow tired of seeing my mangled body. I know you would never do that, however, as I know you are not the kind of person who could do that. I just—I wish…” He trailed off, glancing down at his plate to avoid my eyes.
I smiled sadly and shook my head. “If I was going to run away, I would have done that months ago. Initially your appearance was a shock but I’ve grown accustomed to it. Now you’re just Kendrew to me. A normal boy who wants a normal life, just like everyone else.”
His lips tilted up into a small smile. “You have no idea how that makes me feel to hear you say that out loud as you just did.”
“Will you eat something now? You can’t starve yourself.”
He nodded and reached over to add more food to his plate. While we ate, he talked openly about his past, recalling certain memories that were special to him. I felt honored and told him some of my stories, particularly with my father, to which he listened with great interest. When dinner was over—we never ate the hoer d-oeuvres, as Kendrew never liked them anyway—he said he had one last thing he wanted to do and led me back out into the hallway, once again refusing to answer my questions.